This week, Mitt Romney said there was a “one of a million” chance he’d run again for president in 2016. Political journalism being what it is, his comments were taken to mean that he was “opening the door” to another campaign.
Never mind that Romney was quoting a part of the movie “Dumb and Dumber” that is specifically about why treating a one in a million chance as real is, well, dumb.
People around Romney, on the other hand, are actually very serious about 2016. They’ve been pushing the idea of another run for months. They have various motives. Some of them want to avenge the wrong allegedly done Romney in 2012; some of them want more fees. Plenty of other Republicans are nervous because they’re used to having clear front-runners, and don’t see any in the current field.
Whatever the reasons for renewed interest in Romney, Republicans would be well advised to move on. That’s not because Romney was a weak candidate in 2012. He ran ahead of Republican Senate candidates almost everywhere, and often by a substantial amount.
But he never seemed to grasp the reasons the Republican Party has performed poorly in recent years, chief among them the public’s skepticism that Republican policies would do anything for most people. Romney seemed even to disdain the idea of showing that conservative ideas would yield tangible benefits for individuals.
I think that’s what he was getting at when he said, right after the election, that President Barack Obama had won by offering voters “gifts.” The next Republican nominee should take a more sympathetic view of voter self-interest, and try to appeal to it (by offering middle-class families real tax relief and cheaper health insurance, for starters).
Republicans in 2016 will be running for a White House that has been in the other party’s control for eight years. There will be natural “time for a change” sentiment, perhaps heightened by the likelihood that the Democratic nominee will be someone who has been at the highest level of American politics for a quarter century. That argues for a candidate who offers fresh ideas and a chance for the public to turn the page. Romney is not the most natural choice to deliver that message.
Then again, a “Dumb and Dumber” sequel is due pretty soon.
[Cross-posted at Bloomberg View]